Weigh all options if moving board of elections

An unintended consequence of the merger between the Washington County Department of Job and Family Services and Children Services may be that the county board of elections is forced to move.

The board of elections has been at their Davis Avenue site since 2013 and we think it suits them well. We hope our county officials very seriously consider their next location, if there really must be a move.

Much more so than the board of election’s previous home in the courthouse, the Davis Avenue location allows for easy access to all the county’s residents. It’s handicapped accessible and there is plenty of parking. That becomes very important during early voting times twice a year. Early voting has become very popular in Washington County, with more than 8,000 residents casting ballots that way in November’s election. We want to make sure a new location would still make that as easy as possible. Whatever can be done to encourage the most residents to cast their ballots, should be done. A move to a place less accessible could very well mean fewer people voting.

Accommodating the increase in early voters was the primary reason for moving the Washington County Board of Elections in 2013. During peak early voting times at the courthouse location, voters would be spilling out into the lobby and around the staircase, trying to find private places to cast their ballots. There also was not adequate and secure storage for hundreds of thousands of ballots, records and voting machines. Those items were spread out around the area, including at the county garage and in an old jail cell.

We understand that it may be beneficial for Job and Family Services and Children Services employees to work in the same physical location now and that may mean JFS moving into the Davis Avenue site with Children Services. But we hope those overseeing this merger will take their time with the decision. They need to decide first if that physical merger is really that important, and second, who else will be affected.

If the board of elections must move, we then ask that their relocation isn’t a rushed job. Take the time to truly consider needs of that operation and how voters would be impacted. Find a space that offers ample parking, enough space for secure storage and private voting, and isn’t too far off the beaten path. It may be a tall order but we think it’s worth the most careful consideration.